The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
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Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: It's the beginning of a lazy summer in 1950 at the sleepy English village of Bishop's Lacey. Up at the great house of Buckshaw, aspiring chemist Flavia de Luce passes the time tinkering in the laboratory she's inherited from her deceased mother and an eccentric great uncle. When Flavia discovers a murdered stranger in the cucumber patch outside her bedroom window early one morning, she decides to leave aside her flasks and Bunsen burners to solve the crime herself, much to the chagrin of the local authorities. But who can blame her? What else does an eleven-year-old science prodigy have to do when left to her own devices? With her widowed father and two older sisters far too preoccupied with their own pursuits and passions—stamp collecting, adventure novels, and boys respectively—Flavia takes off on her trusty bicycle Gladys to catch a murderer. In Alan Bradley's critically acclaimed debut mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, adult readers will be totally charmed by this fearless, funny, and unflappable kid sleuth. But don't be fooled: this carefully plotted detective novel (the first in a new series) features plenty of unexpected twists and turns and loads of tasty period detail. As the pages fly by, you'll be rooting for this curious combination of Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes. Go ahead, take a bite. --Lauren Nemroff

A Q&A with Alan Bradley

Question: With the publication of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, you’ve become a 70-year-old-first time novelist. Have you always had a passion for writing, or is it more of a recent development?

Alan Bradley: Well, the Roman author Seneca once said something like this: “Hang on to your youthful enthusiasms--you’ll be able to use them better when you’re older.” So to put it briefly, I’m taking his advice.

I actually spent most of my life working on the technical side of television production, but would like to think that I’ve always been a writer. I started writing a novel at age five, and have written articles for various publications all my life. It wasn’t until my early retirement, though, that I started writing books. I published my memoir, The Shoebox Bible, in 2004, and then started working on a mystery about a reporter in England. It was during the writing of this story that I stumbled across Flavia de Luce, the main character in Sweetness.

Q: Flavia certainly is an interesting character. How did you come up with such a forceful, precocious and entertaining personality?

AB: Flavia walked onto the page of another book I was writing, and simply hijacked the story. I was actually well into this other book--about three or four chapters--and as I introduced a main character, a detective, there was a point where he was required to go to a country house and interview this colonel.

I got him up to the driveway and there was this girl sitting on a camp stool doing something with a notebook and a pencil and he stopped and asked her what she was doing and she said “writing down license number plates“ and he said “well there can't be many in such a place“ and she said, “well I have yours, don’t I? “ I came to a stop. I had no idea who this girl was and where she came from.

She just materialized. I can't take any credit for Flavia at all. I’ve never had a character who came that much to life. I’ve had characters that tend to tell you what to do, but Flavia grabbed the controls on page one. She sprung full-blown with all of her attributes--her passion for poison, her father and his history--all in one package. It surprised me.

Q: There aren’t many adult books that feature child narrators. Why did you want Flavia to be the voice of this novel?

AB: People probably wonder, “What’s a 70-year-old-man doing writing about an 11-year-old-girl in 1950s England? “ And it’s a fair question. To me, Flavia embodies that kind of hotly burning flame of our young years: that time of our lives when we’re just starting out, when anything--absolutely anything!--is within our capabilities.

I think the reason that she manifested herself as a young girl is that I realized that it would really be a lot of fun to have somebody who was virtually invisible in a village. And of course, we don’t listen to what children say--they’re always asking questions, and nobody pays the slightest attention or thinks for a minute that they’re going to do anything with the information that they let slip. I wanted Flavia to take great advantage of that. I was also intrigued by the possibilities of dealing with an unreliable narrator; one whose motives were not always on the up-and-up.

She is an amalgam of burning enthusiasm, curiosity, energy, youthful idealism, and frightening fearlessness. She’s also a very real menace to anyone who thwarts her, but fortunately, they don’t generally realize it.

Q: Like Flavia, you were also 11 years old in 1950. Is there anything autobiographical about her character?

AB: Somebody pointed out the fact that both Flavia and I lacked a parent. But I wasn’t aware of this connection during the writing of the book. It simply didn’t cross my mind. It is true that I grew up in a home with only one parent, and I was allowed to run pretty well free, to do the kinds of things I wanted. And I did have extremely intense interests then--things that you get focused on. When you’re that age, you sometimes have a great enthusiasm that is very deep and very narrow, and that is something that has always intrigued me--that world of the 11-year-old that is so quickly lost.

Q: Your story evokes such a vivid setting. Had you spent much time in the British countryside before writing this book?

AB: My first trip to England didn’t come until I went to London to receive the 2007 Debut Dagger Award, so I had never even stepped foot in the country at the time of writing Sweetness. But I have always loved England. My mother was born there. And I‘ve always felt I grew up in a very English household. I had always wanted to go and had dreamed for many years of doing so.

When I finally made it there, the England that I was seeing with my eyes was quite unlike the England I had imagined, and yet it was the same. I realized that the differences were precisely those differences between real life, and the simulation of real life, that we create in our detective novels. So this was an opportunity to create on the page this England that had been in my head my whole life.

Q: You have five more books lined up in this series, all coming from Delacorte Press. Will Flavia age as the series goes on?

AB: A bit, not very much. I think she’s going to remain in the same age bracket. I don’t really like the idea of Flavia as an older teenager. At her current age, she is such a concoction of contradictions. It's one of the things that I very much love about her. She's eleven but she has the wisdom of an adult. She knows everything about chemistry but nothing about family relationships. I don’t think she’d be the same person if she were a few years older. She certainly wouldn’t have access to the drawing rooms of the village.

Q: Do you have a sense of what the next books in the series will be about?

AB: The second book, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, is finished, and I’m working on the third book. I have a general idea of what’s happening in each one of the books, because I wanted to focus on some bygone aspect of British life that was still there in the '50s but has now vanished. So we have postage stamps in the first one... The second book is about the travelling puppet shows on the village green. And one of them is about filmmaking--it sort of harks back to the days of the classic Ealing comedies with Alec Guinness and so forth.

Q: Not every author garners such immediate success with a first novel. After only completing 15 pages of Sweetness, you won the Dagger award and within 8 days had secured book deals in 3 countries. You’ve since secured 19 countries. Enthusiasm continues to grow from every angle. How does it feel?

AB: It's like being in the glow of a fire. You hope you won't get burned. I’m not sure how much I’ve realized it yet. I guess I can say I‘m “almost overwhelmed”--I’m not quite overwhelmed, but I’m getting there. Every day has something new happening, and communications pouring in from people all over. The book has been receiving wonderful reviews and touching people. But Flavia has been touching something in people that generates a response from the heart, and the most often mentioned word in the reviews is love--how much people love Flavia and have taken her in as if she’s a long-lost member of their family, which is certainly very, very gratifying.

(Photo ? Jeff Bassett)

In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

To Flavia the investigation is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions, and connections. Soon her father, a man raising his three daughters alone, is seized, accused of murder. And in a police cell, during a violent thunderstorm, Colonel de Luce tells his daughter an astounding story—of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, of a priceless object that vanished in a bizarre and brazen act of thievery, of a Latin teacher who flung himself to his death from the school’s tower thirty years before. Now Flavia is armed with more than enough knowledge to tie two distant deaths together, to examine new suspects, and begin a search that will lead her all the way to the King of England himself. Of this much the girl is sure: her father is innocent of murder—but protecting her and her sisters from something even worse….

An enthralling mystery, a piercing depiction of class and society, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a masterfully told tale of deceptions—and a rich literary delight.

Customer Reviews:


    You may not quite believe Flavia de Luce, the heroine of Alan Baxter's praiseworthy debut novel, but you will surely find her irresistible, especially as read by Los Angeles actress Jayne Entwistle. She delivers a can't-stop-listening-to narration of this imaginative tale set in the English countryside.

    To say 11-year-old Flavia is precocious is an understatement. She has a mastery of chemistry that many college grads may not possess. Of particular interest to her are poison and death. She's so composed that she is not averse to closely monitoring the last breaths of a dying man. Said man is found in the family home's cabbage patch.

    Did I mention that she's also intrepid and an amateur sleuth (although "amateur" doesn't seem to suit Flavia in any way. ) When her father, a widower and devoted philatelist, is arrested for murder, Flavia takes off on her bike (called Gladys) to investigate. A dear departed in the veggie plot isn't the most unusual thing to happen at Buckshaw, which was once a grand home. (I'm picturing "Grey Gardens). Earlier in the week a dead bird with an old stamp pinned to its beak was dropped at their doorstep.

    Leave it to Flavia to pore through the town archives, piecing together the past in her search for her father's vindication.

    For us, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a winner, and we're delighted to say the beginning of a series.


    - Gail Cooke...more info
  • One of the year's most charming debuts
    Making his fiction debut at age seventy, Alan Bradley has crafted a charming novel that is sure to be one of the most loved mysteries of the year. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces a delightful, intrepid, acid-tongued new heroine to the genre.

    Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old girl living in 1950s England, is an aspiring chemist, a lover of poisons and a terror to her older sisters. When she discovers a dead body in the garden of her family's estate, she adds another hat to her repertoire: detective.

    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie has a wonderfully entertaining plot, but it is Flavia that truly makes it shine. As this is only the first in what is projected to be a six-book series, readers are sure to enjoy the delights of Bradley and his creation for some time....more info
  • A delightful mystery with an irresistible young sleuth
    This delightful, clever, wryly funny murder mystery, set in 1950, is narrated by a very intelligent, resourceful 11-year-old heroine named Flavia Sabina de Luce, who lives in an English country house and whose passions are chemistry, with an emphasis on poisons, and deduction. After Flavia happens upon a murdered man in the cucumber patch behind the house, her widowed, philately-obsessed father is arrested, and it's up to Flavia to solve the crime and prove his innocence. (Of her discovery of the body, Flavia says that this was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to her in her entire life.)

    The story is beautifully written, with a wonderful cast of characters, a well-paced plot and excellent dialogue. Readers who like British cozy mysteries, and fans of Harriet the Spy, are especially likely to enjoy this book, but I also recommend it to anyone who likes an original, refreshing, playful whodunit. I can hardly wait for the two sequels that are reportedly in the works!
    ...more info
  • A wonderful story for the relatively erudite reader
    Not that I want to think of myself as relatively erudite, but I think we have to admit that the quantity of literary allusions and chemical minutiae int his novel could be off-putting to some readers.

    Now that you've been warned, I can say that I loved this book and am looking forward to reading more by this author.

    The story is well-written and well-plotted, and filled with passages you'll want to read aloud. Here's one my favorites:

    "I found a dead body in the cucumuber patch," I told them.
    "How very like you," Ophelia said, and went on preening her eyebrows.

    The people, including the 11 year old heroine, her family, and the village characters, are quirky without being irritatingly or implausibly odd. The dialogue is sprightly, the clues are properly tantalizing, and there's a good amount of action without excessive gore.

    The story turns on an ancient, undiscovered crime, rare stamps, and old friendships.

    Fans of novels from the Golden Age of Mystery will enjoy this one....more info
  • A Unique Super Slueth
    A charming precocious eleven year old sleuth named Flavia DeLuce is the narrator of the first in a planned series of mysteries set in and around 1950s England. Smart and witty, and with more than a passing interest in chemistry, young Flavia lives with her father and two self absorbed sisters. Wandering behind the house one morning, Flavia discovers the body of a man who whispers a cryptic word to her before expiring. Flavia suddenly channels her inner Harriet the Spy, as she begins to piece together who the mystery corpse is, and why he's been murdered. I admit the book took me a few chapters to really hook in, but Flavia is a winning,funny, and one of the more original gumshoes to it the mystery circuit in some time....more info
  • Sweet and Tasty all the way through!
    This is the most remarkable book. The prose, the plot, the pluck of this the heroine kept me enchanted throughout. I can't remember ever reading something with such original phrasing. I laughed out loud many times and my eyes widened in amazement many more. I can't wait for the next Flavia adventure. She is spunk personified and has the knowledge (of chemistry and human nature) to back her up. A slice of heaven!...more info
  • Sibling Rivalry
    Simple put this is fantastic book! The author, Alan Bradley unique description of flavia living with 2 older sisters in England along with having the intellegents to solve mysterys keep me spell bound to want to read more. Hope there is more to come....more info
  • Easy to put down
    I really wanted to like this book. I started it once....put it down. Later I started it again and although I more or less made myself read nearly to the end, I still was disappointed. From reading other reviews, I perhaps missed something. Maybe I'll try again but not for a while. ...more info
  • Clever chemical fun - 4.5
    With a title like "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie", it's hard not to get into the mood of the story immediately. A quirky, odd little book that ranges from hilarious to surprisingly insightful at times, "Sweetness" has an originality boost that is often lacking in novels.

    Characters are seen through 11-year old Flavia's eyes. Don't get the mistaken impression, though, that this is some child genius who sounds like an adult and behaves as such. Flavia is a clever young woman, smart in her field of chemistry, creative, sharp and generally quick-minded. And on the other hand, she's eleven - she bickers endlessly with her older sisters, throws herself into a crime situation as she is convinced that she must solve it, romps around the countryside on her nicknamed bike, and pulls stunts that fit any trouble-making kid. It's a voice that actually ends up sounding believable - author Alan Bradley doesn't need to strain in order to sound like this young girl.

    Other characters have their whimsy and wit too, even if they're much less developed. Flavia's elder sisters, Daphne and Ophelia, appear little in the book but leave a strong impression on the reader (via Flavia). Flavia's father is the brooding, dark figure in the coattails of the story, a figure mysterious even as he speaks (a fact Flavia herself recognizes and criticizes). Friends, family and acquaintances are described with just enough details to make them feel real, even if the central and reigning character is Flavia herself.

    This self-described "crime" novel is much more a strange, silly book than it is a thriller or a mystery. With the plot revolving around stamp collection (a chuckle in its own right) and the mystery marked by a murder (always good fun), it's a plot-driven tale that leaves the reader wanting a bit more. And not simply in that I'd like to see more stories with Flavia. Too often, Bradley falls into the "storytelling" formula, where one character narrates a long and descriptive speech that sounds unrealistic and bizarre. Twice in the story this occurs, and twice it feels vaguely off, taking a bit away from the overall charm of the story.

    On the whole, though, "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" is a book filled with clever chemistry fun. Chemistry lovers will appreciate Flavia's flair for the subject; mystery lovers will find the quirks and hilarities of the plot intriguing. It's a book to read in one intense setting (difficult to put down!) and it's one that has me looking forward to any upcoming installments in Flavia's life. Setting aside some quips in side-character development and narration, it's a really enjoyable book, worthy of a day devoted to entering Flavia's curious world. Warmly recommended, 4.5....more info
  • Fabulous story that charms and delights the entire way through!
    This story was so much fun to read. The heroine is a wickedly bright 11 year old who loves chemistry, has a mind that is smart but also charmingly childish, and isn't predictable in any way. The story takes place in the middle of the 20th century in England, which gives the story a great deal of historical charm in regard to customs, actions, etc. The story is well paced and doesn't lag at all.

    I highly recommend this charmer for adults and older children. I'm in my late 30's and found it completely engaging. ...more info
  • Immensly Enjoyable
    The single element which adds such charm to Alan Bradley's mystery novel, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, is its eleven year old narrator, Flavia de Luce. Armed with determination and a natural ability to sleuth she attempts to solve the book's central mystery--a body she happened onto in her family's garden. With a spirited original voice, "I shivered with joy whenever I thought of the autumn day that Chemistry had fallen into my life," she trails clues involving stamp collecting, magical illusions, and her passion, poison.

    Unlike some mystery novels it gives us substantial hints throughout the story, and so provides a nicely solvable mystery by the story's conclusion. SWEETNESS is a mystery with some literary heft but still manages not to take itself too seriously. Flavia's account of the events is over the top funny, and the book is a good choice for younger readers too. I am definitely picking up the next book in the series, and crossing my fingers in hope that the novelty of a precocious crime solver doesn't wear off. In my estimation, Flavia de Luce may emerge as our generation's Nancy Drew.
    ...more info
  • Excellent book
    I picked up an advanced copy and just finished the book, being a first book from an author I wasn't sure what to expect. The reviews of other readers were encouraging though. I love the characters, the development, and the story. There wasn't a lot of twists for a mystery, but the writing was incredible. Being a chemist I appreciated the more 'technical' talk and think it added greatly to the story. I know a few people didn't think the story seemed to come from an 11 year old's perspective and maybe it was a little advanced for an 11 year old. Conversely, I remember my grandfather telling me of all the things he played with as a child and all the books he read as a kid, we've really dumbed-down what's now available to our kids in the name of safety and promotional tie-ins.

    I am really looking forward to Alan Bradley's next book. ...more info
  • The Harry Potter of Young Adult Mystery Novels
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie could very well be the Harry Potter of YA mystery books. Set in 1950 England, the book's heroine, Flavia de Luce is sure to steal your heart.
    A precocious eleven-year-old with a love of chemistry, Flavia finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery. She sets out to solve the crime and clear her Father's name. In the process, she discovers more about her parents and about herself than she had bargained for.
    The writing is excellent and flows with great ease. The Advance Reading Copy I received was 370 pages long, but moved at such a quick pace that it felt half that. This book was one that lingered in my thoughts even after I'd pause and put it down. The humor is perfectly adapted to be well in line with Flavia's character. The mystery unfolds expertly, never divulging too much, keeping the reader interested, and all the way seeming absolutely reasonable. I dislike crime novels that string a plot along until the mystery is solved and everything tidied up in the last 5 pages. This book is nothing of the sort. Bradley delivers snippets of information in small doses, so the reader feels that they, along with Flavia, are uncovering the truths in a natural way. I, for one, cannot wait for Bradley's next book featuring more adventures with Flavia.
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a great read, one I'm positive that both my mother and my 11-year-old nephew will enjoy as much as I did. I am getting this in the mail right out to them, so that they may be entranced with Flavia and Bradley's writing....more info
  • A wonderful introduction to a new girl sleuth
    For the first 150 and so pages, I LOVEd this story. And except for the long reveal in the middle, the story is still very enjoyable. Alan Bradley has performed an impressive feat for a debut author. He has created an interesting, original story with wonderfully vivid imagery and a lively and engaging writing style that is sure to hook you quickly! Plus he has created a motley cast of characters that are just a kick to read about. Flavia is a truly unique narrator and heroine. She is eleven years old and extremely precocious. She loves chemistry, especially dabbling in poisons. (She has two bully-ish older sisters so this knowledge comes in

    Mr. Bradley's writing style is wonderfully witty, tongue in cheek, humorous and riveting. All the elements are there for a great story. And The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a great story but the way the mystery unravels was a bit hard to swallow. The mystery begins with the discovery of a dead bird on the doorstep with a stamp pierced through its beak. Then soon after, Flavia hears her father arguing with a late night visiter and the next morning she finds that visiter dead in the cucumber patch. When her father becomes the primary suspect, Flavia jumps into action to find the real culprit.

    Flavia has all the inquisitiveness and curiousity of previous girl sleuths (Harriet the Spy, Nancy Drew). But she reminded more of how Harry Potter's Hermione Granger would be, without her magic. She is conniving, ingenious and stubborn. Neither one is a girl who backs down from a challenge. Flavia is very intuitive for someone so young. Finding her mother's elementary chemistry book opened up a new world to her. A world she delved into quite happily for a little girl... And provided her with ample tools and knowledge for mystery solving and retribution, as her sisters have the inane ability to transform "Flavia the Invisible" into "Flavia the Holy Terror" with their cruel, teasing ways.

    The moment of annoyance occurs when Flavia's father reveals a great deal of pertinent backstory all in one fell swoop. It all felt too much like "telling" rather than "showing" certain events (through something like flashbacks). I don't know how all the history would've been discovered but it felt awkward and a little forced for so much to be revealed at once. After that point the 'reveal' comes quickly.

    Overall a promising debut for Mr. Bradley and the series- it is something to be enjoyed by mystery fans of pretty much all ages (there really is nothing objectionable for interested younguns). Flavia is a great character. I am curious to see what further trouble she can get into! ;-)

    4 1/2 stars ...more info
  • I almost gave it five stars, it was certainly wickedly brilliant
    I love smart and snarky girls who seek revenge, know more than they should, exhibit cleverness beyond their age and end up precisely where they shouldn't be.

    Flavia de Luce is 11 years old and happens upon a dead man in the garden. This is the most fascinating thing that's happened to her. Until the police look at her father as their number one suspect. Flavia finds the murder so fascinating she starts doing a little fact checking herself and before you know it she is engrossed in getting to the bottom of the mystery, but it is an entirely natural progression, it doesn't seem odd or out of place or forced to the reader that Flavia is researching the murder.

    Flavia is a clever whip of a gal who self studies chemistry in an old laboratory in her house. She's quirky and quick witted and an absolute riot to follow around town. Not everything goes Flavia's way and her detecting methods are not as direct as the police but she comes upon answers.

    So join Flavia and learn about philately, chemistry, and about the de Luces an odd but loveable family.

    Smacking good read - I've recommended it to several people so far....more info
  • Really Very Good
    The year is 1950. The place is a small English village named Bishop's Lacey. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce lives in rambling old Buckshaw mansion with her two older sisters, her reclusive stamp-collecting father, the frumpy cook (Mrs. Mullett) and the gardener, Dogger. One day a dead bird with a postage stamp impaled on its beak is found on the steps outside the kitchen door. The next morning Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch. With his dying breath the man whispers a single word...

    The descriptions of the mansion, Flavia's obsession with chemistry (specifically poisons), and her ongoing war with her sisters all reminded me quite a bit of the Addams Family. I kept visualizing the scenes as if they had been illustrated by Edward Gorey. The first two-thirds of the book have a darkly humorous charm that is irresistible. The final third builds up some pretty good suspense, but then the climax feels just a teeny bit forced.

    The final chapter, in which Flavia sums up the case for the Police inspector, came off a bit too .. what's the word .. melodramatic? Gratuitous? I felt that the "child genius" shtick was laid on a little too thick at the end, but aside from that, there was not a sour note in the whole book.

    At one point I did wonder why Flavia was not in school. One tends to forget that she is only eleven years old, and perhaps the author did, too. Children do have certain obligations, and it isn't explained why Flavia seems to be completely free of them. This was only a passing worry, and didn't detract from the story.

    Also not plot related, but it stuck in my mind: Poison ivy, as far as I have been able to determine, does not grow in England. You'll have to read the book to decide how important this fact is.

    Definitely a good read; a fun and original addition to the annals of detective fiction. The author's acknowledgments imply that this is the first book in a series. I hope it is....more info
  • Thoroughly Enjoyable
    I loved "Sweetness." Flavia is completely charming, in a schemeing sort of way. This book was clean enough to send as a gift to my 11 year old neice and 83 year old grandma. I'm hoping for more like this....more info
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
    One of the best aspects of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the author's creation of an enthralling world for us to happily get lost in. The old English mansion, quiet country village with darker undertones, are painted with consummate skill. The author doesn't make the mistake of surrounding a strong central protagonist with flat secondary characters. Eleven year old Flavia is engaging but all the characters hold our interest.I particularly liked the humourous edge in Mr. Bradley's writing and comparisons to Alexander McCall Smith are spot on. All in all, a great read!...more info
  • Not So Sweet
    Most eleven year old girls would be upset to come across a dying man in their garden, but not Flavia de Luce. Already an avid chemist (with a passion for poison) she eagerly embraces the chance to investigate the murder. It won't be easy - her mode of transport is a bicycle and she has to battle her older sisters and the police, who for some reason don't welcome her help. However, whether they know it or not, her family needs her help and Flavia is determined to give it. But is she really strong and smart enough to battle a murderer?

    "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" sounded intriguing but I found it disappointing in the end. The premise is an interesting one - a precocious eleven year old with a flare for chemistry investigating crimes, but it is that very premise that failed to work for me. For one thing, the novel is aimed at adults but I think the idea would have worked better in a mystery for young adults. Another problem is Flavia herself. The novel is written in the first person, narrated by Flavia, and except for the fact that she had to ride her bike everywhere I had a hard time believing she was only eleven years old. Yes, she was raised in a unique sort of family, left pretty much on her own after her mother died and her father basically withdrew from the world, but she struck me as far too intelligent for an eleven year old girl (the quoting of Shakespeare is an old clich¨¦ and a bit much in this book). There are some nice moments - the sibling rivalry between Flavia and her sisters is very realistic - and some nice bits of humor in the book, but not enough to redeem it in my eyes. There are too many unbelievable scenes - for example the entire conversation Flavia and her father have about how he knew the murder victim. While the novel is set in 1950, it feels very old-fashioned and might have benefitted from being set in an even earlier time frame. The mystery has some good moments, but relies a bit too much on fortuitous timing - the police always seem to be there when Flavia needs them and she easily stumbles across clues the adults have missed. There are not enough suspects to have fun trying to figure out who the killer is.

    "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" has its moments but I ultimately found it disappointing.
    ...more info
  • Coming from a non-mystery reader, this book was good!
    I usually read more fiction and historical books, so I was pretty skeptical about this book because it is a mystery. I think by the end of the first chapter of this book I was hooked, wanting to know more, wanting to know what was going to happen. The writing is great, straightforward and simple, and I love the characters the author creates, and the way they talk to each other. Highly recommended for anyone that wants a "smart" mystery read, like Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Excellent, excellent, I will be patiently waiting for more books to come out by this author....more info
  • Terrific read
    I really enjoyed the sweetness at the bottom of the pie. I hope there are many more Flavia De Luce stories to come. I thought the story line was great, it kept me guessing. I can't wait to see what is in store for the De Luce family, especially the sisters. I love the actual chemistry weaved in the story. Flavia is only 11 years old, but wise beyond her years and I hope she just gets better and better with age. This book was just an all around great read.
    ...more info
  • Loved the Mystery of this Gem!
    It took me about two chapters to really get into this mystery, that's my only complaint. I'm not sure why, perhaps it was the language and the fact the protagonist was only an 11 year old girl that felt more like a 50 year old one! Once I got into the tale, however, I found myself delighted in the story and actually thought I wish I were Flavia at 11! The mystery itself is a good one and the characters within the mansion are even better. Poison, stamp collecting and some chemistry. How fun is that?
    I've already passed this book on to someone that loves mysteries with a twist. Can't wait to see what the author does next! ...more info
  • Sweetness Comes Easily With a New Author
    If you're looking for a fun read that you can share among your entire family, then get Alan Bradley's book! How often do you get to find a young protagonist, a compelling murder mystery and forensics all in one great package? Not often enough! I couldn't put this book down and by the end, I was wanting way more! Flavia de Luce is one of the most memorable characters in recent fiction--she's more refined that Encyclopedia Brown ever was and far more inquisitive!

    When I was young, I loved all the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Books, Hardy Boys and Harriet the Spy still remains one of my favorite characters. But Flavia certainly ranks up there as a true genius. Bradley's writing is fast paced and offers up that rare book that both adults and teens will love.

    I cannot wait for the next book!...more info
  • Highly enjoyable
    I urge many adults, and perhaps YA readers, to give "Sweetness" a chance, although it's a bit unusual. It reminds me of the Theodosia series, which I also enjoyed, in that a strong, brilliant, funny girl solves the mysteries. It is also "clean," with no sex, no gore, and minimal language, yet it's a very interesting read. Try it; you might like it!!...more info
  • Flavia is Supposed to be How Old?
    I would have enjoyed this novel more if the heroine, Flavia de Luce, had borne more resemblance to a real 11-year-old girl. She is supposed to be brilliant and precocious, but I found myself constantly making excuses for why she often seemed more like Miss Marple than a kid. This disconnect is exacerbated because the book is in the first person. Somehow I don't think of a girl when I read sentences like "This was a kind of condescension with which I lived my life, and I probably laughed too loud." Her belief in Better Revenge Through Chemistry didn't make me like her any better, plus it had me wondering about the feasibility of her methods rather than turning the pages faster. The mystery itself is interesting enough, although slow-moving, and puzzling out the solution is both possible and enjoyable. I don't regret the time I spent with Flavia, but I am in no particular hurry to meet up with her again....more info